Career Advice: Successful Time Management

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By Cindy Stephens

In today’s fast-paced health care environment, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed by the significant tasks needed to be accomplished on a daily basis. It is easy to lose sight of what is important to achieve in a day. Goals, organizational skills and effective time management can improve productivity and ensure career success.

Since we only have 24 hours in a day, we need to plan our day and life accordingly. Managing our time helps to ensure we make conscious choices to allow us to spend more time doing the most important things. Time management allows us to plan and organize a schedule which results in increased productivity and effectiveness. The key to managing time successfully begins with setting realistic goals, then organizing yourself and your schedule to ensure you can achieve those goals. Clutter and disorganization create stress in our lives, and sometimes we spend too much time looking for important information in the chaos. You will accomplish more in a day by utilizing a planning system to assist with maintaining your calendar, whether it is a Day-Timer, MS Outlook or technology (phone, iPad, etc.). Along with managing your daily schedule, it is important to maintain a to-do list. Again, choose a system that works for you – electronic or paper. Your to-do list should support your overall goals and successful completion of duties to meet your specific goals. Begin by listing everything you need to accomplish, then prioritize tasks by importance and urgency.

Be sure your to-do list and schedule are realistic and achievable in the time frame allotted for each task. Regularly review your list and revise it to meet the specific demands and requirements for that day or week. Priorities change so you need to allow time at the end of the day to plan and prioritize your schedule and to-do list. It is wise to review your list each morning to allow for revisions as needed. At the end of the week, review what you have accomplished. Then, set your schedule and priorities for the following week. Continual review of your schedule and to-do list will ensure you stay on top of priorities and move less important activities to allow time for achieving the more important tasks.

Block out time to work on important projects when you know you are freshest. Save the less important tasks for periods that do not require a lot of concentration. For large projects, schedule timeframes into manageable segments and allow breaks to maximize your concentration period.

Electronic messages can be important to what we need to do in a day, but they can also be a hinderance in what we accomplish. It is important to manage your time spent on reading email and text messages. Decide what is important, and don’t waste time on personal or frivolous messages. Recognize what is critical to your job and take care of it immediately. Set aside two or three times a day to read email so that you are not continually interrupted. You can quickly respond to important messages, but delay responses to personal messages until non-work hours. Reading emails on a phone or other portable devices can also be a challenge if they are long or include attachments that require further attention. Delay reading those messages until you have access to a computer.

Do not waste time at work on non-productive activities. Make a list of your time “bandits” – those people and interruptions that drain your energy and time – and do something about them. Personal interruptions can drain your time, focus and energy. If you find yourself taking personal calls and texts from family and friends during the work day, make an effort to ignore them until your lunch breaks or after work hours. Co-workers can become time bandits as well, conversing about their personal issues or complaining about irrelevant issues that decrease productivity. Although management should take care of repeated time wasters, it is important that you ignore them and continue to work diligently on the important tasks at hand. It may not be easy, but avoid involvement in these types of distractions.

Today’s technology allows non-work-related distractions for many employees who use work hours for personal online shopping, games, social media, etc. Do not fall into this trap and avoid it at all costs. Using work time and resources to access the Internet for personal purposes interferes with the overall productivity and effectiveness of the employees and many people have been fired over it.

It is important to balance your personal life and work. Taking time for family, friends and outside interests helps us to maintain our sanity and a well-balanced lifestyle. However, a healthy life includes some downtime and that includes turning off electronic devices to ensure you are relaxing, not allowing electronic interruption of your personal time off.

Remain committed to your goals, your time management schedule and your prioritized to-do list. Continually tweak your plan as needed. You can accomplish more in less time by appropriately managing your time. Be sure to implement a time management plan that will ensure high productivity and still maintain a healthy quality of life.

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